Sunday, December 28, 2014

Moments of Christmas to Cherish

Which moment made it special for you this year?

When you opened the gift you weren't expecting? When the Christmas Sunday choir sang the new rendition of Joy to the World? Or just the preparation and anticipation of guests and family coming to visit? What new thought about Christ's birth filled you with a deeper gratitude than you had before?

My moments were sprinkled throughout the month of Dec., some with the usual, expected emotions, others coming unexpectedly and each one bringing me a greater appreciation for the life I live today because Jesus came into our world, felt our feelings, and saw things from our limited perspective.

Early in the month I sat at a school Christmas program watching a grand daughter perform. As Christ's birth was highlighted through the beautiful messages of carols, I pictured the Holy Spirit moving over the crowded auditorium, whispering endearments and stirring up emotions and memories in hearts, sneaking in love while their guards were down, the Great Lover drawing and wooing... I prayed for hearts to respond, to turn back to Him, to open up, to question and seek to know more.

I enjoyed moments of listening to the music of the season. At home, in public places, on the iPhone-the Good News was proclaimed, even as background music. No matter how much I try to really listen to the lyrics of the songs and catch the impact of the miracle, when Christmas is over I still want just that once more time to sit and listen and take in the words.

Decorations at our house were limited this year as part of the season we will be traveling and not here to enjoy them. Somehow each piece became more special as I chose which ones to display. My choice depended on each ones history or significant meaning. The manger scene was lovingly unwrapped and each Ivory soap carved figure positioned in the wooden stable. My brother made the pieces a very long time ago.  A friend made the stable.

The snowmen collection huddle together in hats, scarves and mittens on the table inside the front door. Their warm smiles belie their wintry images.  The soft bead-stuffed guy perches on the star box next to the happy fellow who starts to dance when sunlight hits his built- in sensor strip.  Behind them a soft family of Papa, Mama and kids stand close together. A tall metal gentlemen with top hat, nearby, bounces on his spring-based bottom, causing his dangley chimes to sway. In the middle, the ice cube man turns different shades of color-feeling a bit exposed, maybe? Wooden, ceramic, resin or chenille each one has adapted to life indoors. Most of them were gifts, and I remember the giver with fondness.

Family comes together and notices changes since the last time together. Notices the never changing, too. This year two daughters were great with child. One delivered a sweet baby boy before Christmas. The long slow uncomfortable journey the young pregnant Mary endured from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as well as the humble birth of the Christ child in a barn with cattle, shepherds and unsanitized surroundings took on new meaning.

A nephew announces his marriage, a great niece serenades us on piano, Mom and Dad are moving much slower, and a niece brings a new boyfriend. We still play bingo and eat cheesy potatoes and top off the meal with peppermint ice cream.

My take away Christmas meaning this year is a new appreciation for the freedom Christ came to give us. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill towards men". He bypassed political leaders and religious icons to slip into our world where poor in spirit greeted him first. Angel fanfare was for shepherds' eyes only.  He came to comfort, to seek and save that which was lost. He extends goodwill towards you and me. He still offers to weary and heavy laden ones his rest. He teaches us from his meek and lowly heart.  He came because he knew our need; we never have to be ashamed of that need because it brought/brings him to us. He still brings peace to "meek souls who receive him". This is the freedom he brings, to be loved exactly where and how we are. To trust him to change the broken in us, to right the wrongs, to live forgiven and forgiving.

Thank you, Father, for sending your son to our world. For giving me your life through Him. For knowing exactly what I needed and what our world still needs today, and providing it generously and freely. I surrender anew to your work in me. Make your home in my heart so all my affairs are directed by you.  I give you control. Thank you for choosing me.  I love you, Father.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Greetings From 2014

God's goodness through the year we see.
Here's our news from A-Z.                              

A-Austin and Ashley get married Jan. 18.  Ashley works for Indiana Wesleyan in Merriville, IN, and Austin continues his social work job in the same area.
B-Babies! Dec. 13, Noah Gerard was born to Jodi and Emmanuel.  He makes son number 3 for them. Amanda will have baby Zane the end of January, and Austin and Ashley are adding one more to the new cousin list in June.
C-Charades is one of our favorite grand kid games- nice to have graduated from Candyland!
D-Dan and Kristina give us the joy of having family close by.  Dan enjoys his construction job and volunteering for the Jefferson fire department.  Kristina is keeper of the home and has started a business selling Perfectly Posh products for women.  Check it out online at perfectlyposh.com.
E-Elle, 11, and Jill, 13, spent about 9 days with Papa and I here in Indiana. We crafted, went shopping, visited relatives, took in a musical and made generational discoveries together.
F-Fun in the sun at Lake Michigan in August as we spent a weekend there with two other couples.  A very relaxing get-away.
G-Goshen College still employs me, Ruth, in the library. There were huge changes on campus this year which included a  different director for the library. The transition has been good, and I find myself with a few more job responsibilities which has actually enhanced my work. 
H-Harvest, our church, is transitioning to a new pastor.  We are beginning to meet a candidate who seems promising. He hails from the Carolinas and has a young family.
I-Involved with caring for Kevin's mom and dad who each had major surgery within two weeks of each other; both ended up in Greencroft rehab center in the same room for 6 weeks.  They are now doing well, although they are still recouping and making adjustments to their new healthy; dad can't drive anymore so mom is the chauffeur.
J-Josh and Kira hosted us for a few days in Tulsa in July.  We were excited to see the nice home they had just purchase earlier in the year. They continue to excel in their jobs and both of them have the privilege of doing a large share of their work at home. It was great to visit and play together. (Raise your hand if you remember the game Pit?) Their household  bustles with the teen and preteen activities of  Jill, Elle and Brayden(14). Cody rounds out the family and is currently living as a student at Oklahoma State.
K-Keeping up with friends brings joy, opportunities for laughter and fun, and support in the not so fun times.
M-Memories are easy to capture now with iPhones close. You'll find a sampling at the end of the letter.
N-Nights of sleepovers with Dan's 3 kids-Aubrey, 10, Shawn, 7, and Rebecca, 4. Hide-and-Seek, Dominoes, and always pancakes for breakfast-a cooperative effort.
O-October visit to Florida for Nana. Ian, 6, and Dominic, 4, took Nana on walks, played whiffle ball with her in the front yard, and Ian showed off his new reading skills by reading her a book. Their pregnant mother took Nana to coffee shops and the beach.
P-Popcorn is still the Sunday evening staple in our household.  Kevin makes it on the stove, and we carry our big bowls of popped delight downstairs for a Netflix show. #thefavoritewaytospendasundayevening
Q-Quite humbled to be able to serve our church as Conflict Solution peacemakers, Kevin a hospitality greeter, and me the church librarian.
R-Regular communication with Joe's elderly parents in southern IN and Dad and Lena Showalter in VA.  They are all holding their own and finding joy in life despite their physical and mental limitations. Dad Schrock has lost short-term memory, Mom Schrock struggles with verbal expression as a result of a stroke a couple of years ago, and Lena is still trying to regulate heart issues. We are so thankful for their Godly examples of growing older with grace and dignity.
S-Sorrow in losing a close friend to cancer in May. Mike still lives on in our hearts. We relate closely to Mary Ellen, his wife. God's grace has abounded in the situation, and we are privileged to have been front row participants in His delicate care for her and their grown sons.
T-Thanksgiving was a week long event this year as Amanda, AJ, Auron and Elika came from VA to stay with us. We enjoyed evenings together and a traditional meal of celebration. Auron, 7, is learning to read and Elika, 4, enjoys puzzles and coloring. They are looking forward to welcoming baby Zane into the family the end of January..
U-Unveiled revelations from the Father as we both seek to know Him better; His rewards are out of this world!
V-Very intense 12 weeks of Fight Club for Kevin.  Fight Club brings men together through Facebook posts and midnight meetings to learn how to discipline their lives so they can "fight" for their families and the kingdom of God more effectively. Kevin had weekly assignments that required running miles per week, sit ups and push ups, social engagements that were stretching-like praying for strangers, and spiritual challenges of reading scripture and related books. I'm proud of Kevin's dedication and successful graduation from the program.  He has glowing reports of how God used the time to change him into a better man.  He prays to continue to "maintain the gain".
W-Work at Tri-State Compressed Air remains both a blessing and a challenge for Kevin. His work days are long, but his attention to detail and his organizational skills make him a valuable employee.
X-number of days until the Schrock kids and us reunite in Florida over New Years.  I'm looking forward to meeting Noah, helping his mom and spending some time with Josh's family and Austin and Ashley as they vacation close by.
Y-Yikes, I'm almost done and forgot to mention how special you all are to us. We consider our relationships our greatest assets. Thank you for being there!
Z-Zane will be the next grandchild to be born. It's good to have a Z name in the family!

Thank you for reading to the end.  Notice any letter missing?
Merry Noe.....L and a Happy New Year blessing!
Kevin and Ruth

Noah
Austin and Ashley
Brayden
Cody

Elle, Aubrey and Jill with Papa
Josh and Kira
Jodi, Ian, Dominic, Emmanuel
Amanda, Elika, AJ, Auron
Aubrey, Kristina, Shawn, Dan, Rebecca

Friday, December 19, 2014

To Be Set Apart for Preparation

I love it when God decides to share words of encouragement with me.  Like billboards along my highway advertising his love for me or beaming out rays of enlightenment that I wasn't expecting at that moment or in that method. He is faithful and creative in his care for me.

Billboard #1-

My email inbox receives a devotional from Proverbs 31 ministries every day.  One day this week Lysa Terkeurst shared an experience from a conference she attended where she ended up being seated at a table totally by herself.  She was separated from usual friends and none of the expected people at her assigned table showed up. As her mind began to play pity party thoughts, she heard the Lord say, "You aren't set aside, Lysa. You are set apart." As she pondered that she realized that to be set aside is to be rejected, to be set apart is “to be given an assignment that requires preparation…as you pray through your feelings,[of loneliness or insecurity] see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.”
Thank you, Father.  You know I needed to hear that.

Billboard #2-
From a Bethel sermon,  Bill Johnson referenced the verse from Ro. 8:28-"all things work together for good to those who love God..." Then he made this statement: "There would be no need for that verse if we weren’t in a process”. I'm reading between the words and see another reminder here about preparation. In the process of loving God and trusting him we are not just waiting to see the working-out-for-good of things, but He's working out good in us. 

Billboard #3-
Randy Alcorn used the same verse on his blog today.  About our life after this he says, “We’ll no longer have to cling by faith to ‘God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God’ (Romans8:28, NASB). We will see history as definitive documentation of that reality.” The me, after the preparation is complete, is looking  forward to that hind sight view!  The fine print on this one says-it will be worth the clinging and believing.

What are your signs saying? God will be faithful to tell you just what you need to hear. Keep your eyes open. It is just a matter of waiting and staying faithful and learning all that the process wants to teach us.   

Oh, how I need your grace, Father. Gather up the loose ends of the threads of my emotions and fasten them securely in the eternal pattern where they belong.  I’ve made a mess of separating them from the weaving because I didn’t like their color or placement.  Others I’ve snagged on sharp conclusions or rough judgments. I’m holding still so you can repair. I’m enduring the pain of your correction in the preparation.  Your gentleness comforts me. You speak while you work. Your words give me hope, extend undeserved forgiveness and soften my stubbornness.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Updates in Status


Leave it to Facebook to flaunt a myriad of subjects in my news feed without any sequence, rhyme or reason. Scrolling merrily along I see decadent desserts that make my mouth water, poses designed to make you play find-the-baby-under-the-spaghetti-face, videos of school Christmas programs or sleeping pets, outrage at presidential proclamations, memes with pithy aphorisms, scary closeups of facial features, videos that begin play by just looking at them, games to match your personality with colors, movie characters or celebrities and links to thought -provoking articles.

Social media has changed our lives! I like the instant access to knowledge and closer connection to family and friends. What better way to experience the far away, less-than-24-hours-old grandbaby than with a Facetime encounter, punctuated with newborn sounds and gestures. AT&T coined the phrase, "reach out and touch someone" in the 80s; we had no idea then of where technology would reach and what our fingertips would touch. Our cell phones are another appendage for most of us. Lose, misplace or damage one, and panic is sure to ensue. 

If I'm honest, I admit some of social media doesn't always seem good.  

Instant feedback addiction:
Did you ever thrill to the positive comments and long string of names liking your FB post and then struggle to read someone's demeanor or response when conversing face to face? If only they would post a smiley on their forehead or  raise a thumb to let you know they approve of what you're saying. Are we getting accustomed to communication inflated with ego boosting gratification?? :) 

Comparison errodes contentment: 
Does your heart pang a bit when you read something a friend is getting to have that you can't have? What happens to our emotions when a personal status post gets little attention or fewer comments than someone else's trivia? Did you ever find it hard to be content with your depth of an experience compared to the perfectly transpired account someone else has described on FB?  Social media at times, has provided my tendency to feel inferior with more frequent opportunities to be provoked.

Time management can be more challenging:
Ever stay up too late catching up on posts with links that lead to more links, that lead to another blog, that leads to a youtube video, that leads to... The information is exhilarating, while the glowing -screen- reading steals my ability to fall asleep when I finally decide to go to bed. In my restless insomnia, I remember I forgot to call that elderly relative, or prepare the memo I need to send out first thing in the morning. The guilt furthers my sleeplessness.

I often find it easier to text someone than make a voice to voice or face to face contact:
There are times I'm uncomfortable making phone calls.  Texting takes less time and provides space in responding.  But I never want to lose the art of sharing voice to voice and passing on sensitive and personal information with the tenderness and compassion that gets lost in communicating by any other means.

So how much more I find the admonition in Proverbs 4:23 to be relevant for me today:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Father, help me to include social media in the "whatever you do, in word and in deed, do all to the glory of God ". May the increased knowledge I have of friends and their experiences of life increase my care for them; to rejoice with them in successes and grieve with them in sorrows. Thank you for connection and the community of Facebook friends I share. You have spoken to me through them.  They give me laughter and opportunity to pray.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Lunch Room Visit

 Visiting Ian in the Lunch Room

Matt. 19-21 Msg
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. "

My recent visit to see my daughter and her family was full of delightful activity and memorable snapshots of the unexpected and random moments of breathing life with youngins'. Dominic and Ian provided plenty.

I think my favorite quote of the visit happened when Jodi and I went to eat lunch with Ian at his school.  After he woofed down his hot dog (pun intended), I opened my purse and pulled out the M&Ms I had smuggled into the lunch room.  He happily munched through half of them and noticed his class lining up to leave. Torn between leaving and wanting to finish the candy, I told him I would take the rest, and he could have them when he got home from school. Contented with the arrangement, he dutifully fell in line with his classmates.  His mom and I walked alongside the single-filed students until our paths separated.  As we waved to Ian he looked at me and said, "Now take good care of those M&Ms, Nana!"  I assured him I would.

Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  Whether your treasure is M&Ms or family time together, your heart will be guarding and protecting what you want to keep. Family is up close to the top of the list for me. You bet I'll be staying in touch with all my kids and making visits as frequently as I can, so relationships we have with each other can stay current and deepen and mature.

What are you protecting because your heart is in it? How can we protect what we value? That spot-on scripture I read this morning becomes more deeply embedded as I share it's meaning with someone else. Going the extra mile to do some unexpected kindness to the one I love, "takes good care" of our relationship. Carving out time to spend writing or reading is increasing the value of my skills and knowledge.

How about the trinkets we thought were treasures and now look so chintzy next to the real valuables we've stored up? Perhaps the way I hover over my iPhone apps is a clue to one of these treasures in the making. Like the grade school papers and mementos I've saved from my kids for "when-they-grow-up-and-will-value-them-as-much-as-I-do", (been there?) some things I'm hanging onto I should be tossing out-- jealousy or worry thoughts or selfish expectations. Not wanting my heart residing there!

Jesus also said our treasures should be in eternal places, where they are guaranteed to escape recession, looting and erosion. I want my energies and delights to show where my heart is; in heavenly places where I'm stashing up what will last for eternity.

So when Ian came home from school that day, you can guess the first question he asked me. And I said, "Yes, here they are!"

Father, I want to be stuffing  that eternal storehouse full of treasures. Help me to recognize the 'fool's gold' of things that take time and energy away from laying up true treasures. Teach me how to assess the valuables of life the way you do. That the greatest treasures are the persons you came to find and save. And that compounding interest in your kingdom comes through giving away treasures to others.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

They Call Me Nana

Sometime, likely late 40s, it happens. You're officially dubbed whatever they've decided. And your new name and another identity begins. According to babycenter.com's lists of names I could have been a Mimi, Oma, Gramma-Bamma, Lala, Lulu, Nanner, or... but, I've been awarded a duel christening, Nana and Grandma, depending on which family I'm with.  And when all the cousins get together, I answer to both!

As the plane neared the Pensacola airport, I knew Ian and Dominic were anticipating their visit with Nana.  Even though I had only one small carry on as luggage, I managed to tuck surprises in between the folded clothes and accessories. I would soak up Nana moments and some sunshine with my southern family. We would squeeze as much lovin' and livin' as possible into my three day visit.

Here's what we did. Take a deep breath... Celebrated the season with pumpkin inspired sweets at Krispy Kreme, met Dominic's preschool teachers, collected leaves on a stroll outside, made leaf pictures, mixed and flattened and loaded some dough with cinnamon and sugar, ate cinnamon rolls, hit some plastic baseballs in the side yard, took a walk to the 'bumpy' road and the 'dirt' road, visited the white-sanded beach where Dominic kept mommy and me amused with watching his small body dancing against the shallow waves tumbling onto the shoreline, and laughing as he called the diving dolphins we saw in the distance, hippos, ate lunch with Ian at Kindergarten, played Spot It, put a puzzle together, read books, listened to Ian read a book, talked with their mommy while we taxied back and forth in the car- with the tunes of Go Fish in the background, ate awesome fries at Red Fish, Blue Fish, enjoyed excellent cuisine prepared by my creative daughter, and before I had gotten a chance to poke back a kick from the little Ringer yet unknown, it was time to board the home bound plane to Indiana... Whew!
Krispy Kreme!

















Nothing like the white sand of Pensacola Beaches!                                    
A Pumpkin Latte Swirled to Perfection


Leaf Picture Fun

Fish, butterfly and turtle
Jodi, Ian, Eman & Dominic


Meeting Ian for Lunch at His School

It was a great get-away!  Thank you, Jodi, for hosting me and planning our time together.

Father, thank you for creating family. For children grown up and building their own families who make us proud. Their wisdom, wit and welcome give us joy and friendship. For the reward of grandchildren. For times together and memories made.

...we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,

his power, and the wonders he has done.
Ps 78:4



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: Surprise at Yorktown

Product Details 
Surprise at Yorktown is 15th in The Imagination Station, an adventure series for lower level elementary kids. Readers familiar with Odyssey productions from Focus on the Family will recognize Mr. Whittaker from Whit's End.  He has invented a time travel machine that transports the youthful characters in this series back to historical events where they become part of the drama. For each trip, Mr. Whittaker equips them with special "gifts" which become necessary items to help them in times of trouble.

In this story Beth and Patrick are eager to get sent to a place where they can meet George Washington. Endowed with an handkerchief and a fife they land into 1781 on the outskirts of the battlefield in Yorktown.  The adventure is fast-paced with suspense, surprises and some general historical facts.  The author does a great job of introducing historical characters for our young heroines to meet and learn from.

I had some trouble with the setting providing an appropriate adventure. Patrick and Beth are running across war fields while cannons are firing close enough for them to feel the "sharp smell of burning powder stinging" their noses.  They are chased by soldiers and find themselves in the tents of Generals from both sides of the war. Adults show very little concern for the children's safety.

This series will appeal to kids who are interested in history and enjoy stories with lots of action. The reading level is probably for Grades 2-4.

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Amazing Love!

http://www.biblexcursion.com



I watched the video of the Hosea story from the Old Testament and felt the wonder.  That God would even ask one of his men to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him is hard to understand.  But that was Hosea's call,  and he married Gomer, laying down dreams and hopes for a secure and happy family life. God's greater purposes for his people were being served. A Father showing his children sacrificial love and the extent he was willing to go to be close to them. He would demonstrate that extreme love through Hosea's life.

Just as Hosea's spouse rejected him and was unfaithful, so God's children had left him to adulterate themselves to other gods.  And just as God would inspired Hosea with unfailing love so that he could buy Gomer back to himself, God wanted to redeem his people.  If they would only turn back to him!

So several years and three kids--who may or may not have been fathered by Hosea --later, God asks Hosea a hard thing.

Then God ordered me, “Start all over: Love your wife again,
    your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your
        cheating wife.
Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people,
    even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.”
 I did it. I paid good money to get her back.
    It cost me the price of a slave.
Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me.
    No more whoring, no more sleeping around.
    You’re living with me and I’m living with you.”
Hosea 3:1-3

Hosea was God's prophet who obeyed the call, but he was a man, too, with emotions and needs.  What would life had been like for him? Had Gomer left the home?  Did she neglect the children?  Did Hosea have childcare and household duties that a man normally would not have had?  Had she left for good, or did she try and hide her forays from the neighbors by leaving undercover of the dark? Was Hosea so saintly that he held no resentment or anger?

Whatever the details, it couldn't have been an easy assignment for Hosea.  Add to that, friends' and neighbors' curiosity and gossip, maybe even advice for Hosea to pursue the Law's provision for adultery, and Hosea was truly alone in his commission. 

I don't doubt that our God could grant Hosea forgiving Love and even the kind of hungering Love God had for the people he had chosen.  But that is the amazing-ness of this love.  Love that transcends personal hurt.  Love that hopes in spite of past history, in spite of no evidence of desire for repentance.  Love that forgives before the offender even acknowledges the offense.  Love that waits...long...  Love that continues to call when no one is listening.  Love that believes for the best.  Love that never dies.

The film I watched has Hosea buying Gomer at an auction, after she had been cast out and abused by other lovers.  After her dignity was completely gone.  After she was utterly along and undesirable, Hosea rescues her.

But I imagine it was not an easy reunion. Was Gomer grateful or self-loathing? Trustful towards love or hate-filled against ever loving again?  Joy filled or jaded?  Hosea's heart was set with obedience to God and willingness to allow Gomer back into his heart.  Doing the right thing, however, doesn't guarantee instant change into wholeness and feel-good emotions. 

And Hosea and Gomer's story ends.  We can hope that Gomer's heart was won by Hosea's amazing heroic love towards her, forever.  That his enduring, sacrificial love convinced her to never wander again.

Jesus demonstrates this unconditional love by laying down his life for us.  His death was God's payment to buy us back to himself. Jesus told the story of a son who leaves home and squanders the family inheritance. When he is completely wasted he returns to home, and his Father forgives him without question and embraces the one he had lost with great rejoicing.

Earthly family is ordained by God to contain his amazing Love.  I'm watching my husband's family in the midst of caring for  his aging parents. Dad's chest frame was opened so new aortic tissue could replace a worn out valve. Now he works hard to regain his independence as he cooperates with therapeutic regimens in a health care center.  Kevin and his two sisters have sacrificed time off from work and other activities to sit together through surgery, provide food for Mom so she doesn't have to cook for herself, transport both of them to doctor's appointments and make frequent visits to the hospital and care facility. They've celebrated birthdays in new settings with non-traditional food to accommodate new diets, and all this among the new faces of healthcare workers.

Grandchildren have come for visits or face-timed on iPads.  They've sent flowers, brought games for Grandpa to play and traveled from out of town to clean house for Grandma. I'm taking in God's amazing love in action, his kingdom coming to earth, his will being done here as it is in heaven.  I am privileged to be here, to be included.

Perhaps family to you is only disappointment, strife, rejection, neglect or even abuse. You long since stopped hoping this kind of love could ever be your experience.Or maybe family was pretty good, but your structure had holes in the roof and no one knew how to repair them. You're dealing with some damage. Your earthly family may never provide this Love, but your heavenly Father has never stopped offering it to you.  If you'll accept his gift of adoption, he'll repair the broken pieces of your heart, wash the wrongs and sins away through the blood of Jesus, and give you home better than you ever imagined it to be. You'll be part of the family of other believers who will love you, not perfectly, but there will be forgiveness and second chances and God's promise to never leave you and grace that covers a multitude of sins.  He'll transform your way of thinking and you'll look more and more like your big brother Jesus as you get to know him better.

Why wait? Come in, come back, come now. 
Father, thank you for your love that never ends.  Forgive me for taking it for granted.  For the times I've not been responsive to your desires and initiative, forgive me.  May I be enthralled by you only, ever captivated with your amazing Love.  Use me to demonstrate this love to those who once knew your love but have been enticed by other lovers. Teach me how to offer this love to those who never knew it existed.  May I bear your family resemblance. That they would say that I have your eyes, that  my walk is like yours, that my voice sounds just like my dad's, that I would be accused of being the apple that doesn't fall far from the tree.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Visit

Anxious, never easy for me
Hopeful, pretending confidence
Thankful. just routine
Nothing major
Others suffer much more.

Wait is never very long, yet
The wait is hard.
Surrounding conversations can be negative,
TV drama is unsettling
The Scrabble App distracts me.

The form asks so much
How detailed do I get?
Even a hint of any symptom?
Or just extreme, repeated complaints?
I move through the list quickly.

Good to realize I am healthy,
No symptoms to check, until
Depression?  Maybe...
To check or not to check?
The last line says Prayer Concerns.

I am pleasantly surprised!
Here in this setting
The physician offers prayer?
Would I dare ask?
I am called...

After weighing, cuffing, pressing my wrist,
I wait again,
The healer comes in
She is positive, we chat
We are almost done.

I mention I marked Depression,
She had overlooked it,
I tell her I like Prayer Concerns,
She says she is always ready
The healer holds my hands.

There on table lined with crinkly paper
Watched by health posters on the walls
In that room where fears are born,
She asks the Father to help me
She invites His presence to be real.

Fingers slide across my shoulders as
Anxieties are commanded to go
My palms are lightly rubbed
When she asks for Him to come that near
Then, asks for Him to use me to be His light.

My eyes sting, they are wet
I feel cared for, loved
I thank her, she loves
Her job, her patients, her Lord
Wow, an unexpected ending to this visit.

My heart sings, the anxiety is gone
Use her Lord, she is brave
Protect her
Strengthen, shelter others through her care.
Your servant, doing Kingdom work.

Monday, August 18, 2014

More Magical Moments of Summer

Following the visit with Jill and Elle, there were 5 days at home for projects and visits with friends, and then Kevin and I headed to VA for a nephew's wedding. The pre-wedding days built into the trip afforded time to visit with my Dad and siblings. Love, love these events that gather us together, from FL., from Delaware, and the Virginians, which include my brother Paul, father of the groom, and his family, and my Dad and step-mom.

My sister and I made sure we satisfied our resale-shopping-together-tradition at the mission sponsored store Dad volunteers time to. Since she and I have birthdays a day apart and since the dates were only a couple of weeks away, we weren't going to miss the chance to celebrate together. There might have been a time in childhood when sharing birthdays wasn't cool, but we were way past that juvenile nonsense.  Roy, her husband, bought us a cake and Dad planned a night for the occasion, to treat us all to dinner out. Our gifts to one another were brought out from the car trunks, and we enjoyed the exchanges.
Happy Birthday, Sis!

The family lingered over breakfast in the mornings. A few of us even managed to slip in a couple of games of Scrabble. We enjoyed being treated to the rehearsal luncheon and attending the informal gathering of other extended family, outside of our clan, which had come to join in the wedding festivities.

Weddings force our attention away from any worries and cares of our own as we watch the featured couple exchange vows and smile endlessly for the photographers-for the guests-for their joyful anticipation of a new life together. We the family are treated to wonderful food and free entertainment as the dancing begins. Every wedding is unique, and we eagerly anticipate what surprises this one might hold.

After the wedding party couples hip-hopped into the reception, the first dances were performed as we all watched, and then they sat down at tables with the guests, the bride and groom seated at table with their parents. I liked the no head table idea. Also, thumbs up to the options of activities offered to the guests---dancing and a help-yourself-dessert bar. And the funny, lol moments at the old-fashioned photo booth.  Remember the phone booth sized boxes that used to sit in a hallway in the mall?  Where you and your boyfriend snook inside, closed the black curtain behind you, slipped some coins in the slot, and stole some kisses while the hidden camera captured your furtive flirtation?  Or snapshots of your 'gang' who crowed into the little space for a silly group selfie? The camera flashed for three different poses and voila! you could pull the bookmark size, black and white results from another slot for on-the-spot keepsakes! Now, many photo technology methods later, these old-time marvels are obsolete. Some local company has resurrected them, and transports photo booths to events. The photo shoot experience is now updated and enhanced with props-feather boas, oversized eyeglasses, hats, signs, wigs, costume jewelery-sure to suit any fancy and personality.

Our family decorated each other, amid laughter and iPhone camera clicks. Each couple or single took their turn in the cubicle and left with a tri-photo of themselves, in color, a memoir to keep of the wedding. A copy of each session was saved for the bride and groom who would have a grand picture collage of the guests who had participated. Dad and Lena were reluctant to frolic in the silliness with us, but they succumbed to group pressure and joined in the fun.

The weekend ended with hugs and happy memories and Kevin and I headed east to see Amanda and her family. There we enjoyed a week of more grand kid time.  Auron is 6 years old, Elika almost 4.  Grandpa and I honed our puzzle assembly skills, read stories, built Lego vehicles and structures, baked cinnamon rolls, and played Candy Land and Sorry. We visited their schools and jumped the waves at Virginia Beach. Movie night featured the Legos movie. Another night the adults competed at Euchre.
Elika Bakes!



At the end of the week, and time to leave for Indiana, there were only good byes to Daddy, because Amanda and the kids followed us back. After they spent a week in the area with other family, they moved in with us for the remainder of their stay. This time we read Grandma's story books, and played with Grandma's dress up clothes and cars. Puzzle marathon day had every kid's puzzle in the house put together for display on the living room floor. Auron learned to ride a two-wheeler, sans training wheels, on the thrift store bike I had purchased.
Birthdays were celebrated early; we would be far apart come actual birthdays this Fall.



Chalk Art!

Auron tries Pop Rock candy for the first time:)
Puzzle Mania!
Auron and Elika were an absolute delight! So glad you all could come!

Goodbyes could no longer be averted and Amanda and family left our home on a Sunday morning.  Daddy had flown in mid-week and would drive with them for the long trip back.

As the house returns to it's uncluttered floors and quieter demeanor, I reflect on the month gone by. We withdrew our days from a bank of plans and expectations, spent them freely with happiness and joy and now treasure our new possession of memories.

Thank you, Father, for family. What a wonderful plan to have two hearts share love, create new life together, and be genetically connected for life. A connection that is meant to bring security, safety, and emotional belonging.  A picture of the greater family connection we have with you.  We love, because you first loved us. Surround this family I belong to with continued peace, joy and hope. May our love grow for one another and for you. Teach us every day more about your ways.  Keep us connected when apart, intentionally available to each other when together, and sure of our love for each other when conflict happens or misunderstandings try to tear us apart or weaken our bonds. Then send us to share that kind of family love with those who need to know they are loved and have a place in your family.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Invasion


Summer, time off from work, family visits, grand children hugs and snuggles...these are a few of my favorite things...

July afforded me all of these pleasures and I simply remember...

The planning began. We would meet the parents in St. Louis with the two lovely grand girls and whisk them away with us to Indiana for nine days of fun, action and just being together. After all Tulsa, where they live, isn't just a day trip away and our visits together are far too infrequent.

Jill and Elle were handed off to us that June Sat. at  the Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis, known for their ice cream and huge BLT sandwiches, with tons of bacon.  Josh, their dad, challenged his cholesterol tolerance, and mouth width, by consuming the pork specialty.  Several of us snatched up any stray pieces of the crispy strips that escaped from the sandwich and his mouth. So technically he didn’t eat every bite, but he came close.

The Heart Stopping 'Wich
With the girls cozied in the back seat of our Prius, we pulled away for the 5 hour drive to Lexinton, IN. Arriving there in the evening, Aunt Naomi put us up for the night, and we enjoyed a brief visit with the girl’s great-grandparents Sunday morning. From there, our passengers occupied themselves with their cell phones as we made the trek to our Goshen homestead later that day. Nana got caught up on the pop music culture and viewed silly selfies all the way home, while Papa kept his eyes on the road.

Nana Learns How to Edit Pics!













Monday was planning and shopping day. We invited cousin Aubrey over to help us hatch our plan for a family mystery meal. Food would be prepared and served by the lovely, youthful trio, and our guests would be Aubrey’s family and Great Grandma and Grandpa. We decided on the cuisine, made up our code names and Jill typed the menu we would hand out to our diners.












As the supper hour approached, my kitchen was astir with brewing, buttering, and waiting for watched pots to boil. The table was set, the aprons donned and the welcome sign hung out on the front door. We were ready!



















Our guests entered, were presented with the menu, handed a pencil and told to choose which menu items they wanted and in what order. As the menus were completed and handed in to the waitresses, the victims of our mystery were seated at the table.
                                             
Of course our guests did not have the real names of the items; they had to guess!
Great Grandpa Making His Choices

What a whirl of elbows vying for room as the kitchen crew began dishing up the first course. Back and forth from viewing each menu at the counter to grabbing a plate to filling it at the stove with the designated food choice. We tittered with glee at the plate that received spaghetti sauce without the noodles, or vise versa. Or the one who ordered banana pudding first with noodles and a salad. I think everyone had deciphered the code for utensils so no one had to eat the first course with their fingers. Of course, depending on what else they had ordered they may not have needed them—no need for a fork to eat water, a napkin or garlic bread. We graciously allowed the guests to keep their silverware as we cleared off the first round of service and prepared for the next four items requested on the menus. Eventually, all courses were served and the mystery was history.

The cooks all say the event was a huge success; I think two of the kitchen gang accidentally read the same menu and filled two plates for the same guest, and an item may have been missed now and then, but we sure had fun making it all happen.  The waitresses were handsomely rewarded with a nice tip by Grandpa when the meal was over.




Of course, no visit with preteen girls (who am I kidding, with Nana, too!!) is complete without a shopping spree or two. So Wed. morning we headed for the flea market. I enjoyed seeing what the girls were attracted to. 


The next day was craft time at my friend Brenda’s place. Her grand daughter, the same age as Jill, was over to join in the fun of jewelry making. We all crafted some new fashion piece to suit our personal tastes. Brenda had a great assortment of beads, tools and idea pamphlets and served us a scrumptious lunch to top it all off.

Since the girls both have birthdays in July, we planned a celebration night. After eating Chinese, we took in a play at a local theater.  Great fun!.  I am thankful for each of these precious young lives and the joy they bring to us. What a cause for celebrating!
Watching the show!


Between these planned outings, we managed to watch some Netflix, play Euchre with Grandpa, make ties into a cell phone holder, take a bike ride to the Chief for yummy ice cream, stop at the local hot pretzel shop, do a quick errand trip that included a stop at Rue 21 where Jill and I made good on a buy one, get one- for -$1- deal on some pants, and knotted two blankets together to send to Voice of the Martyrs, who will send them on to the refugees who need them. 
























The day Aubrey was with us, we packed a picnic and met Papa for lunch at Fidler’s Pond Park. 

Elle, Aubrey, Jill with Papa
Friday was July 4th and our planned outing with Uncle Austin and Aunt Ashley.  The day dawned with a chill in the air, and Austin decided we’d wait to go to Lake Michigan until things warmed up a bit. They took us to the Family Fun Center when we arrived. The G-parents relaxed while the rest did some paint-balling, and then we all enjoyed a round of go karts.  It was cut throat competition between some of us.
Later we eagerly got our cars in line to enter the drive into Lake Michigan Beach.  The line was long and after a fair amount of waiting without moving forward, we turned off towards another approach to the lake.  We drove a few miles along shore side without finding a parking spot and sadly concluded it was too crowded to do our fun in the sun that day. Not wanting to waste our picnic plans we pulled into a parking lot far from the sandy shores we had hoped for, and ate the packed sandwiches and fruit, sprawled out on top of coolers, curbing and concrete.  Not ideal, but we were together.

Jill and Elle had quarters for the night in Austin and Ashley’s small apartment while Kevin and I had booked a room in the next town west of Valpo.  We decided to check in to our hotel, let the girls do a bit of swimming there and then head to Hobart for the evening fireworks.  It’s always interesting to watch home crowds gather for annual events, especially if you are an out-of-towner. We pitched our blankets in a tiny space of grass, one of a few patches left and waited for the dark to fall and the show to begin. I was skeptical as to what good fireworks can come from Hobart, IN., but we were all pleasantly surprised with a spectacular display of sky bursts, sizzles and booms. The next morning we gathered to eat at a breakfast cafĂ© and then headed back home...  of course, stopping at the mall along the way.

Our time together was drawing to an end. Tuesday morning we boarded the train for Chicago for the first leg of our journey to take the girls home. We had planned some time to enjoy the big city before our flight left from there early evening.  With all our luggage on our backs or toted behind, we walked Michigan Ave. stopping for Garret’s popcorn, the Water Tower and PF Chang’s for lunch. Grandpa developed a migraine so we cut our adventures short and took the subway to the airport where we had a 3 hour wait until our departure. Poor Kevin, enduring the crowded, jerky subway ride! Once at our gate he was able to sleep amid the busy throngs of people, while the girls and I played games on our phones and read. We finally reunited the girls with their dad later that evening.  Kevin and I enjoyed a few days with Josh and Kira and the girls in their home before we flew back to IN.         
                                                                                                   PF Changs


My granddaughters are the best! Their summer visit burst into our lives with beauty and energy. No matter what we did or where we went they were willing and open to participate and make the best of it.

Thanks, Dad, for loaning them to us for a fabulous 9 days and thanks Jill and Elle for coming and letting us enjoy you! 

Train Ride to Chicago
Our Tie Cases
Thank you, heavenly Father for planning for their entrance and life into this world and the good plans you have for them still to come. Please watch over the memories we share of our time together.  May the times we had to talk about You and your work in our lives, and the moments we experienced that reminded us of your presence, or challenged us to consider your kingdom and its call for us to follow, stick in our minds and hearts and produce fruit that will last.  Keep Jill and Elle safe and strong and closely tied to family who will watch out for them and love them wisely and provide the Godly home they need to thrive in.  No matter what storms may come, may their parents have your wisdom and always know what to do to care for them.  And may we know how to support them and share our love with them, in spite of distance that keeps us from hugs and time together.

Thank you for making us family!
 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book Review: All for a Sister by Allison Pittman



All for a Sister is an engaging read, keeping the reader in suspense until the very end. Set in the 1920's, the story weaves between three main characters. Celeste is the privileged, beautiful movie star daughter.  Dana is the recently released prisoner who was accused of murdering Celeste's older sister when Dana was twelve years old, and Marguerite is Celeste's mother, now deceased, who awarded Dana half of Celeste's inheritance. Why would Marguerite choose to include the murderer of her daughter in her inheritance? Could Dana and Celeste possibly have a family connection?


These details are gradually divulged as chapters in the book containing Marguerite's written confession are interspersed between scenes from Dana's prison cell and Celeste's childhood. Then there is Celeste's womanizing father.  How does he fit into the puzzle?

I found the author's use of metaphors, brilliant and refreshing. For example, in describing Graciela's (the household maid) speech, here is Pittman's penning: "Her words flowed like water, like the perfect draw of a warm bath, the syllables splashing and lapping, one into the next."  When switching between the telling of each character's background history, the transitions are smooth and easy to follow.

As the truth of the past unfolds, I am left to make judgment on Marguerite's actions, partly because the author discloses her deeds in first person, so Marguerite is airing her own conscience, and also because the author expertly tosses the reader between feeling sympathy and outrage. When all is finally revealed, I was satisfied with the conclusion.

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.